Research Coordination Network: Protein Folding and Dynamics

The objective of this Research Coordination Network: Protein Folding Consortium (RCN:PFC) is to provide a novel platform for establishing and nurturing collaborations and training between
experimentalists, theorists and computational biologists who are focused on obtaining a molecular-level understanding of the folding and other dynamical processes of proteins.

Origami folding illustration@2x

The Goals of the Protein Folding Consortium

Proteins are ubiquitous in nature, executing biological functions as diverse as populating the immune system with defense agents against viral infections, digesting food, serving as materials to create skin, muscle and hair, converting signals from the environment into cellular responses and replicating DNA. The RCN:PFC will probe the molecular mechanisms by which proteins adopt their unique shapes and the dynamic processes by which those shapes enable their plethora of functions that maintain life. These phenomena are sufficiently complex that a consortium of experts in both experimental and computational methods is required to understand their properties.

Towards these ends, teams of experimentalists, computationists, and theoreticians are combining their expertise to examine the folding properties of several well-defined protein

targets whose motifs span those typically found in globular proteins. The integration of simulations and experiments on common targets is expected to significantly accelerate progress on the folding problem and transform the way that we think about the relationship between sequence, folding and structure. The discoveries and technologies that evolve from these collaborative efforts are expected to impact other biological phenomena related to folding, including function, cooperativity and allostery, folding in complex environments, aggregation, protein-protein and protein-nucleic acid complexes, as well as protein design and engineering.

This NSF-RCN also intends to establish a new paradigm for solving complex problems in biology to involve concerted efforts from multiple labs with complementary expertise to solve the folding problem.

In many ways, the consortium acts as a virtual institute focused on a studying one of the most important and fascinating problems in biology. It is anticipated that accelerated progress towards a deeper understanding of the fundamental principles that govern protein folding reactions and protein dynamics will have a major impact on biochemistry, medicine and the biotechnology industry.

The expanding ambitions of the PFC encompass folding in vivo, the evolution of biophysical properties, the coupled folding and binding of intrinsically disordered proteins, macromolecular machines and functional dynamics.